six months later: hurricane harvey update, and a break


We're coming up on seven months since we were displaced by Hurricane Harvey.  I've tried to keep Chookooloonks from turning into a hurricane blog -- after all, for most of the rest of the world, Harvey is ancient history -- but I thought that six months in, it might be good to give you an update on where we are in our recovery. 

The short answer:  we're making progress, but not nearly as quickly as I would like.

The long answer is below.

1.  Replacing our belongings.  Because about 25 inches of floodwater stood in our home for close to two weeks, we lost almost everything: anything that was two feet or below in our house was obliterated; most things above 25 inches were discarded, especially if they were made of cloth or paper, because we were afraid of mold setting in, and everything we read said that mold ain't no joke.  (That means all clothes, books and papers, with the exception of what we could evacuate with, are gone).  Everything that we could save -- a couple of pieces of furniture, dishes that were in upper cabinets, that sort of thing -- are in a storage pod.  While the water was still in the house, Marcus managed to wade in and save our art, which was huge, and that's being stored at my parents' place (happily, while the water made it to their door, it didn't actually come into their home).  

So since moving into the apartment where we are now, we've been slowly replacing what we need.  What has been really interesting, however, how careful we've become:  since we've been given a clean slate, we've been able to think about what we really need, as opposed to just buying things to replace.  We needed beds and we needed a couch and a couple of small tables to eat and work on, but we haven't purchased any other furniture, mostly because we don't need it yet (but also because we just don't have the room in our apartment).  There's something that has been really freeing about this -- thinking about not only about what we need, but how we want to express ourselves through our clothing and items for our home, and how what we buy reflects our values ... well, it's been a lesson, and sort of an interesting experiment, and one that continues.  Is it strange that, in a weird way, I'm grateful that we've been given this challenge?

And speaking of our home ...

2.  Rebuilding our house.  It turns out that rebuilding a home is a far longer process than you would think.  Because we love our area (and prior to the flood, our property held its land value well), we decided that instead of selling our ruined home, we'd stay in the neighbourhood.  But when we removed the drywall (again, to mitigate mold), we discovered our 50+-year-old home had structural damage that we probably never would have discovered had we not removed the drywall.  Since we had canceled our flood insurance two years earlier (because our home isn't in a flood zone ... ah, irony),  once we had a quick conversation with a contractor we'd worked with before who confirmed that we were better off rebuilding, it meant that we needed to come up with the funds to demolish and rebuild our house.  

And so, the last 7 months have been all about finding a builder who was trustworthy, picking a home design we could afford, applying for a construction loan, appraising our loss, appraising what a new house would be worth on that land once we rebuilt and getting approved for a loan.  We managed to pick the builder and home design plan by the end of last year, but since then it's been all about banks and appraisals, and only finally closed on the loan last week.  Now we're navigating the world of permitting (you have to have a permit to build, AND you have to have a permit to demolish, who knew?), but once all that's completed, we're off to the races.  Fingers crossed we break ground by mid-April, and then hopefully will be in a home by Thanksgiving, inshallah.  This past weekend, Marcus brought the remaining few things from our garage back to the apartment patio, in anticipation of demolition in the next couple of weeks: items included a couple of bikes, a shop vac and a potted amaryllis that had remained in that disgusting sewer-y floodwater for those weeks, but somehow managed to survive, so we repotted it in clean soil and it's now blooming.  The amaryllis reminds me of that Thich Nhat Hanh metaphor about a lotus needing mud to bloom, just as we need challenges in order to become strong.  Kind of appropriate, right?

3.  Rebuilding a thriving speaking and coaching practice.  Needless to say, with all of this upheaval, money has been on my mind, and at the beginning of the year, I decided that my business had to be my number one priority.  I hadn't been able to focus on it at the end of 2017 (for obvious reasons), and so I committed to myself that I would refocus for 2018.  Happily, my efforts are beginning to bear fruit:  I've booked several keynote and workshop gigs for the year, and have began taking on coaching clients (more on this soon).  In fact, I'm becoming so busy, I've started toying with the idea of bringing on a part-time virtual assistant to help me manage my calendar and some of the administrative aspects of my practice.  It's exciting and terrifying, but generally all good.  Many more details about this to come in April.

So we're making progress, and things are looking up.  That said ... I decided last week that we needed a break.  Right after the hurricane Marcus began a new job (which he is loving, thank heavens), and Alex began eighth grade (which she is loving, thank heavens), and between each of our respective work lives and trying to make a home of our little apartment and worrying about the build, the three of us haven't had much time to just ourselves.  Next week is Alex's spring break, and almost at the spur of the moment, we've booked a quick, inexpensive holiday to Mexico.  We're going to a pretty remote spot, and we're planning on taking nothing but stacks of books and an intent to reconnect.  I may occasionally post an image or two on my Instagram and Facebook feeds, but for the most part, I'll be unplugged.  And once we return, I'll spend a week getting refocused, and then I'll return here to Chookooloonks in April, undoubtedly with lots of photographs and a few stories to go along with them.

One last thing: thanks so much for all of your support, emails, Facebook comments, Instagram comments,  gifts, prayers, good vibes and magical juju over the last 7 months.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that your kindness has meant so much to our little family -- it seriously buoyed our spirits many times when things were looking pretty bleak.  Your boundless generosity is what helps me keep the faith in this world, really really.

With that, I'm off.  But before I go, I wanted to share one thing that made this week a good week:  the following cover of Tracy Chapman's Fast Car by young musical artist Khalid.  I love this because I think this song is hopeful, and I love that it's being performed by a young artist, and young people are inspiring the hell out of me this week.

Click here or on the image below to watch and listen.

With that, much love and take care, friends.  See you when I get back.